Gender Ment'r

Maja J Matarić

I am committed to mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers, half of whom should be women. I am also passionate about sharing my experiences and providing constructive advice to women and girls. There is no need for all of us to make the same mistakes and fight the same fights.

I have put together this resource web page because I am often asked the same types of mentoring questions, and I give the same type of mentoring advice (well, I'm consistent :). This page provides links to some interviews I have done that include many of those questions, and that advice.

First, here are my credentials for giving this advice. These are helpful for those who are writing a paper or report. (One high school student used this on-line advice so well, her report got an award.)

Maja Mataric´ is professor and Chan Soon-Shiong chair in the Computer Science Department, Neuroscience Program, and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, founding director of USC's interdisciplinary Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center (RASC) and co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab. She is the recipient of the 2009 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) (award PR: USC, external), along with mentoring honors at USC. She was named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Technology (full story), and one of the top 25 Women in Robotics (full story). As part of her continuing efforts to promote diversity in engineering education and research, she chaired the Viterbi School of Engineering branch of the USC Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Program, regularly serves as an CRA-W DREU mentor, and contributes to mentoring resources for girls and women.

Here are some interviews I have participated in, and advice I have given:

  • Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award in Innovation Award acceptance speech
  • IEEE TV's TryEngineering Careers With Impact profile
  • NAE's EngineerGirl site profile
  • Interview on
  • Interview on the Viterbi School Women in Engineering (WIE)
  • Interview with Intel's Stay With It program
  • Interview with the Pacific Standard
  • Interview with the Christian Science Monitor
  • Interviews with IT Business Edge: "The Next MacGyver Project Aims to Attract Young Girls to STEM Professions" and "The Story Behind an Influential Advocate for Womein in Tech"

    Some additional advice:

  • Realize that most of what you read, watch, and hear is full of stereotypes. Do your own research, ideally by talkign with people who are involved in STEM, programming, research, and visiting real labs, so you get the sense of what things are really like.

  • Realize that everything you see today is just what is going on today, but it will all change and grow and be developed in new directions and ways based on people who work in the field. So if you work in the field, you get to shape and change it. Don't turn away from something because you think it should be done differently; instead get involved and change it, do it your way.

  • Volunteer your time so you can learn the exciting new developments in the field(s) you are interested in, not because you will necessarily go on and do research in the future, but because you will learn so much more about the real challenges of any field and about what is really exciting than you could glean in a class, by reading, or from talking to people. Volunteering also gains you experience and will get you reference letters, too.

  • Don't expect to be paid if you have no experience; look for scholarships and other ways of supporting your time. Building your future takes an investment of time.

  • No matter what you want to do and be, learn to program. Programming is behind almost everything in the 21st century. If you can program, you have a skill to contribute to any organization, and any lab. If you are committed, you can learn to program for free on the web; see as a starting point. Knowing how to program makes you employable and marketable.

  • Male or female, remember that women make up half of the world and deserve qual pay and an equal place at every table. Behave accordingly.

  • Push. (See the Anita Borg acceptance speech above for details.)

    Last update on 7/11/14
    Go to Maja's home page.
    Go to the Interaction Lab home page.